Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

LIVE from Link: All aboard light rail!

It's hard to believe that this day has finally arrived.

After years of planning, design, engineering, construction, and testing, the first ride aboard Sound Transit's new Central Link light rail system is happening.

I'm actually blogging live from the train at this moment, via mobile broadband.

Aboard are Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Greg Nickels, many members of the Sound Transit Board, and a huge media delegation, including television and radio journalists, newspaper reporters, and bloggers.

View of the front of a Kinkisharyo light rail vehicle

We left Othello Station along Martin Luther King Jr. Way in the Rainier Valley about ten minutes ago and we're rushing southbound towards Tukwila, where we'll stop and change directions, heading back to where we came from.

This is truly an awesome experience.

Championing light rail for Puget Sound (and preventing Tim Eyman from derailing the construction of this Central Link line) is the cause that launched my political activism and this organization over six years ago.

Being able to actually step on board this train... and then feel it move under my feet... is really something. I've been on trains in other cities, from Chicago to Denver. But to be able to ride a train in Seattle - it hasn't been possible until today. Less than a year from now (in July of 2009 to be more specific) Central Link will officially open to anyone and everyone who wants to ride.

Inside of Link Light Rail in motion

The train is surprisingly quiet; many of the journalists aboard are remarking how smooth the ride is. There's space for bikes, and there's space for disabled seating, too. The trains have flow floors so it's really easy to walk or roll aboard.

I've got the camera filming the scenery outside as we pass by, with occasional shots of the interior of the train.

We're just getting on to the elevated guideway now...We're literally flying over Interstate 5, doing about thirty to thirty five miles an hour. We're not actually running at full speed because this is a test train.

Just think...months from now, on days when traffic is at a standstill, Link will soar over the parking lot that is our state's most traveled highway on its way to Tukwila and Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

UPDATE: We've just stopped. This is as far south as we're going to go - we didn't quite make it to the Tukwila Station.

Now we're going to run in the other direction. The operator is walking through to the other cab to take us northbound. Senator Murray and Mayor Nickels are all smiles. Cameras are everywhere. Tonight, on the local news, hundreds of thousands of people will get a glimpse of the future of transportation in our region.

They'll see the inside of a roomy, comfortable train that can't get stuck in traffic, doesn't emit dirty clouds of exhaust, and won't fall behind schedule.

UPDATE II: We're back at Othello. On the way back I interviewed Sound Transit Chief Executive Joni Earl about today's groundbreaking event. I also talked to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels outside at the station.

Link Light Rail train at Othello Station

As you might expect, they're both thrilled with today's event. It's the first time they've been able to ride Link themselves.

I'll update this post as soon as we've edited and released those interviews.


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